The reason that many brands rely on email as a vital part of their broader marketing mix is because time and again it has been proven to be incredibly effective at enhancing the consumer's experience.
By staying abreast of the key technology developments occurring in the channel, and adhering to known best practices, performance gains from greater investment in and adoption of email are inevitable. There are companies, and yours may be one, that believe other channels outperform email - but they would be wrong.
One of the most common questions related to email is how it compares to other channels, but that may not be the "right" question. Email is unique in that who or what you are really competing against is yourself - your own opens, click-through rates, conversions - but understanding how those numbers compare to others within and outside your industry can serve as a baseline for future improvements.
Fortunately, there is an abundance of data that can be used to get a better understanding of exactly how your team measures up. MailChimp, for example, provides monthly updates of email marketing statistics from its platform. The solution provider's data shows that open rates, in any given month, range between 15 and 25 percent, with click-through rates coming in around 2 to 3.5 percent - with hardly any outliers.
There is a danger of course in measuring a company's efforts to the performance of others. The reason is that the "way" email is sent varies greatly by company and industry. A cloud-based software solution might send one monthly email (which includes only a single link to a website page), while another similar company might send a weekly update (with links to 10 different pages).
The best way to compare email performance is against previous efforts, which is why it is so crucial to get started and ensure that measurement protocols are in place. It is important to keep in mind, however, that email recipients are an incredibly valuable asset and as a result, knowing how they want to receive and interact with messages is of paramount importance.
When it comes to how consumers want to be contacted by brands, it appears that a majority actually prefer email - far more than social media, browser-based notifications, phone or email. Customer experience platform Bluecore, for example, released a report ("How Millennials Actually Want Brands to Engage with Them") in late 2016 indicating that despite the assumption that most consumers favor brief interactions across social channels, more than two-thirds actually prefer brands to communicate with them via email.
The overwhelming preference for email communications from brands was echoed across the Baby Boomer (73 percent), Generation X (71 percent), Millennial (62 percent) and Generation Z (65 percent) markets, according to the Bluecore research. Furthermore, more than half of all the shoppers said smartphones are their primary devices for reading email.
"Email is not only alive and well, but it's the preferred mode of communications between brands and their consumers," said Jared Blank, Bluecore's senior vice president of data analysis and insights in a company announcement regarding the report. "This research shows that while there are many options for digital engagement today, retailers must focus on developing a meaningful and personal relationship with their very loyal opt-in email customers. There's a wealth of data to be gathered and marketing information to be leveraged if email marketing is done right - and it's more important than ever as email is 'always on' across a range of connected devices, being used both for online and in-store shopping."
What has become evident to high-volume senders over the years is that not only do recipients expect email to function on mobile in a way similar to desktop, but they also want it to be tailored to them specifically.
Digital marketers have long been drawn to email because it has nearly always provided some way to personalize the recipient's experience, and technology integrations continually drive that benefit for users.
Content discovery and native ad solution Taboola, for example, recently formed a partnership with email personalization solution LiveIntent. The integration will make it possible for users of the two offerings to leverage personalized content recommendations within the email newsletter channel.
LiveIntent currently serves over 160 million individuals who open and consume upward of 3 billion email newsletters per month from publishers and brands including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, MSN, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune and The Weather Channel. It's not just big brands that can benefit from providing a more personalized experience through email. "In this attention economy, it is mission critical to serve content that is relevant and tailored to users' interests.
To do that successfully, we have to double down on getting to consumers in a better way through data and insights," said Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of Taboola. "We are very excited to partner with the LiveIntent team on driving innovation around the intersection of emails, engaged consumers and personalized content recommendations - soon available to our marketers around the world.
This will open a new channel to our current marketers to reach new people at a very unique moment through LiveIntent, serving people with content they may like but never new existed."
It is nearly impossible to personalize the experience without having some insight into who each individual recipient is (as well as their consumption preferences).
Marketers obviously want to take advantage of all the data that is available on their customers in order to deliver the hyper-personalized experiences they expect; and it is becoming increasingly apparent that software is the only way to accomplish that. Fortunately, there is a great deal of activity in the technology space that makes this a reality - and an accessible one at that.
Email marketing and automation provider Campaign Monitor, for example, announced the acquisition of customer data platform Tagga in early 2017. Combining Tagga's customer data platform with Campaign Monitor's solution will provide email-minded enterprises a true marketing-focused customer relationship management (CRM) system - something that has long been missing from the digital ecosystem.
"Data is the fuel of the future and we need to help translate it for our customers in a meaningful way," said Alex Bard, CEO of Campaign Monitor. "With Tagga, Campaign Monitor will be the marketer's behavioral data-driven engine, powering more effective ways for marketers to engage with customers."
The addition of Tagga allows Campaign Monitor to enable marketers to "capture data in an ambient way" according to the company, creating behavioral profiles for their customers in order to drive a greater return for their business. Tagga will be integrated into Campaign Monitor's platform with a beta offering slated for calendar year 2017.
Pricing for the new offering will be announced at the time of general availability. While sending personalized and targeted emails are an excellent way to optimize the digital experience, those efforts will be in vain if the message never gets delivered.
Most brands send email, but few have a clear understanding of channel performance - specifically around deliverability. Email technology provider Kickbox, however, has unveiled a new integration that provides a way for customers of dotmailer, an email marketing automation platform, to perform email list maintenance and email verification of their contacts from within the platform's dashboard.
Users of the system should expect to see higher email deliverability, engagement and conversions of email messages (and automated workflows sent from dotmailer) as a result of using the offering. "Email deliverability is a partnership," said Phil Draper, CMO of dotmailer. "There are the technical bits that we as an email service provider take care of and there are the bits that the client has to look over.
A key component of the client's responsibility is ensuring that their data is valid at the point of collection and maintained throughout the whole customer lifecycle."
Deliverability is obviously a very real and ongoing problem for senders. From poor reputation and list hygiene issues to spam complaints and blacklisting, countless factors can impact email deliverability, but there are solutions emerging that aim to alleviate (or at least minimize) the problem.
Return Path recently announced a new addition to its Mission Control Dashboard, called Smart Alerts. The new feature offers customizable, real-time notifications to help marketers recognize deliverability problems as they occur, pinpoint the source and take appropriate steps toward quick resolution.
"Most marketers don't immediately recognize when they're having deliverability issues, and that lack of visibility can mean the difference between success and failure of an email program," said Dave Wilby, chief operating officer at Return Path. "With Smart Alerts, marketers can not only diagnose deliverability problems in the moment, but also understand the best path to resolution."
The Smart Alerts launch comes on the heels of new offerings from Return Path like enhancements to Email Client Monitor (to track the time and location in which an email was opened, as well as the device that was used and the length of time the subscriber interacted with the email), Geo Email Monitor (a free tool that provides the basic functionality of Email Client Monitor) and Pick Your Previews (a new feature to see how email renders across email clients).
"Having access to cutting-edge tools is critical to our customers' success," said Wilby. "With these new innovations, we're working to ensure that marketers have the customized data, recommendations, and resources they need to build and maintain an effective email program."
Ensuring a high rate of email deliverability is essential for every enterprise involved in the digital ecosystem - particularly those for whom success depends on actual conversions.
Contextual email solution Movable Ink announced a new solution that will enable senders to include real-time pricing and inventory data directly into emails. Marketers are increasingly challenged to create personalized marketing at scale - accurately delivering continually changing information on prices and inventory. Any technology solution that can bring such data to the forefront is likely to be well received by the digital community as it is no secret that timely, relevant, and targeted offers and prices improve both engagement and revenue. Ideal use-cases of Movable Ink's new Real-Time Pricing solutions include offers with constantly changing prices and availability such as airlines tickets, sports, and events tickets and retail products.
"Two of the biggest shifts in the past five years have been the rise of personalized, story-based marketing, and the investment of billions of dollars in dynamic pricing for OTA [over the air] infrastructure in key verticals like travel and hospitality," said Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink. "With Movable Ink's Real-Time Pricing Solution, marketers no longer need to chisel price and availability into stone at the moment of send but can provide the most up-to-date information at the crucial moment when the customer opens or reopens the email."
The post-purchase experience is also vital in ecommerce as it can greatly impact future conversions and there are solutions emerging that tackle crucial aspects of the customer journey such as order notifications (emails that typically benefit from higher open and click rates).
MailChimp, for example, recently introduced a new automation solution for ecommerce businesses (running on Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and other popular ecommerce platforms) to design and send personalized transactional emails including shipping confirmations and order invoices.
Users of the MailChimp system will now be able to create these notification and/or confirmation emails within the same place as their other email campaigns. The new system also provides a product recommendation block, which will enable retailers to include and feature additional items from their store within these critical transactional emails, as well as track revenue and engagement.
Email should be a core part of every enterprise's marketing and customer management initiatives. While there is a lot to learn about the nuances of the practice, those brands that embrace the channel are those best positioned for success in the present and future.